I forget sometimes that some people don’t use Twitter. It’s so embedded into the way I interact with the world, I am usually a little shocked when someone says, “I don’t have a clue about Twitter and don’t want to learn.”
Twitter is not for everyone, and has changed over the years. It’s a meaner, more commercialized, more divisive place than it used to be.
So many of my acquaintances feel the same as Sandi from Midlife Roadtrip:
With 100,000+ tweets behind me, here are my thoughts on Twitter 2018:
Learning the Basics Matters
The most frequent thing people say to me is “I don’t get it” or “I don’t understand Twitter.” It is like learning a foreign language. I swore I would never speak in hashtags but here I am. #NeverSayNever
It’s difficult to find a Twitter 101-type resource that is updated enough to reflect current changes. This one from Wired is decent. Just replace “140 characters” with “280 characters” and note that timelines now are not necessarily chronological (unless you change your settings, as I did, because non-chronological Twitter frustrated me intensely).
Sometimes it is best to read, not tweet
If you read nothing else written in this post, take note of this piece of advice: you don’t always have to respond on Twitter. In fact, you can mute terms that make you anxious. You can block people who creep you out. You can construct lists of people that share interest in common with you, or people who simply make you happy. Twitter will be much more pleasant this way.
One thing Twitter does for me is provide insight on some people who I find interesting, but for various reasons have chosen not to follow. It may be professional (it helps to know that a reporter you plan to pitch is a vegetarian before you pitch your awesome article about novel recipes for meat eaters, for example). It may be personal (you just want to know more about Jane Doe but it’s not a close enough relationship to follow her — kind of the 2018 equivalent of the people-watching we used to do IRL (in real life) at the mall).
Follow People with Whom You Disagree
Although this is not how some people choose to use Twitter, I appreciate the way it gives me perspective into what people think that believe differently than I do. It’s a relatively safe way to get a sense of what the other side is saying and thinking, in 280-character bites. Somehow it feels less “attack-y” than Facebook. Just remember #2 above – you don’t have to always engage on Twitter.
Don’t Hesitate to Tweet with Well-known People
Celebrities (many of them, anyway) love Twitter. Katy Perry is #1 on Twitter with a following approaching 1.9 million (more than Barack Obama). At a ranking of 865,089, I’m definitely far down the Twitter pecking order. BUT, thanks to Twitter, I can support celebrities I care about and interact with the ones who choose to respond (or have a staff person do it — I guess you never really know).
A few fave celebrities on Twitter:
Rubem Robierb – I love his art and his consistently positive, thought-provoking take on things. Follow him at @rubemrobierbart.
Cate Elephante – Okay, she’s 6 years old, and her parent(s) have acknowledged managing her account. But it wouldn’t be logical for a 6-year-old to be managing their own Twitter and social media, right? I saw her as Lulu in Waitress in December 2016, and have followed her since then. I foresee big things out of her, onstage or off, whatever she chooses (because …. she’s 6!). Follow her at @cateelefante.
On the flip side, keep your expectations in check. I’ve gotten better about this over the years, but sometimes you feel you’ve developed a rapport with someone you’ve met over social media, but the two of you share different outlooks. I wrote about this here, when I said, “Balancing the sentiment of “we could be friends!” with “we are strangers to one another who have not established a trust or intimacy level” is a delicate thing.”
Participate in Twitter Chats and Parties
I have participated in Twitter chats for years. In a Twitter chat, participants have an allotted amount of time to interact with each other, brought together by a shared interest and common hashtag. (I was a #RunChat featured blogger for years and kept participating in the Sunday evening weekly chats for a long time.) Twitter chats are a great way to grow your network, meet people with whom you share an interest, and have some social media fun. Some Twitter parties feature prizes for selected participants.
Pro-tip: If it’s a goal of yours, you may work up to having the opportunity to be a paid Twitter party panelist. I have done this a few times and enjoyed it (as well as the cash).
Bonus: Get off of Twitter
Seem diametrically opposed to the title of this post? It is. But it needs to be said.
Twitter is one slice of life. It’s one fragment of social media life, and it’s one 280-character-at-a-time way of looking at the world.
I’ve said it once and will say it again — never have I pursued an IRL meeting with someone I met over Twitter and found myself thinking “gosh they aren’t at all what I thought they would be like” when I did meet them. Maybe I’m lucky. But I do believe people show you who they are on Twitter, for the most part. There are about 10 friendships I can attribute directly to Twitter. Maybe some people l would say 10 close friendships out of around 13,000 follower/following arrangements and 132,000 tweets isn’t a great return on investment.
But I found when I sat down with those ten people face-to-face, that the Tweeting that brought me into their orbits was worth it, as was putting down the phone and lifting a glass with them.
This post was inspired by the Sway Group March writing prompt “name 5 ways to get the most out of Twitter.” (I cheated and added a 6th!).
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.